In Hamels, Rangers have added tested ace
ARLINGTON -- Cole Hamels, in his final moments in Philadelphia before boarding a plane that would take him to a new team and a new start, recounted the memories.
There were the early days in Philadelphia, when he was young and unsure. Then there was the magical 2008 championship parade down Broad Street that solidified his place as a Philly sports hero. There were some bad times, but the good stuck out -- from the Four Aces to the no-hitter in his last start, Saturday in Chicago.
Hamels was born in San Diego but became one of Philadelphia's proudest sons. Now he comes to Texas to join the Rangers, bringing a long track record to meet a fresh set of challenges.
"Heading here, it's another chapter," Hamels said Friday night. "But at the same time, I'm going to keep my same beliefs and my same work ethic, where I'm going out and I'm playing every day and I put in the type of work that it takes to win. I hope that they all see that. … I don't take it lightly."
The Rangers officially acquired Hamels and left-hander reliever Jake Diekman from the Phillies on Friday in exchange for left-hander Matt Harrison and five of the organization's top 30 prospects.
When the Rangers unloaded their farm system for Hamels -- a deal that was months in the making -- they did it for a reason. In Hamels, the Rangers got a proven ace, a three-time All-Star and a World Series MVP who can both look and act the part.
"The performance, the consistency, outing to outing, month to month, year to year, the innings," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels listed as reasons the Rangers liked Hamels. "[He has] the work ethic, focus, and all the things you want to see, to have some of our young pitchers be able to see."
The Rangers got a No. 1 arm, but they also got a personality who knows what it means to be one of the faces of a franchise. A series of snapshots never tells the full story, but the marquee moments in Hamels' career nonetheless reveal a transition from talented prospect to matured workhorse.
Hamels was from California, wore cargo shorts and liked to hang out on the beach. He was long known as Hollywood Hamels, though to characterize him as a pretty boy would be unfair.
Before his junior season in high school, his arm snapped in the middle of delivering a pitch, an injury that nearly derailed his career. He ended up as the 17th overall pick in the 2002 Draft, with a $2 million signing bonus.
When Hamels was in the Minors, he broke a bone in his throwing hand in a bar fight that cost him an invite to big league Spring Training. A year later, he threw five scoreless innings and allowed only one hit in his Major League debut.
Then 2008 happened. At 24, Hamels established himself as the Phillies' top arm in the regular season and went 4-0 in the playoffs on the way to helping the Phillies win their first World Series since 1980.
Hamels was more than Hollywood. He became a focused pitcher with a changeup Chipper Jones once described as "devastating."
His wife, Heidi, was a contestant on "Survivor: The Amazon." Together, they have three children. The youngest, Reeve, was adopted from Ethiopia in 2013. The couple is active in the Hamels Foundation, which supports inner-city schools as well as HIV/AIDS awareness in Malawi.
Hamels has had PR mishaps, like the time he admitted to intentionally plunking Bryce Harper, but he's been honest and loyal in a way Philadelphia fans respected.
"I just tried to be myself," Hamels said. "Sometimes that's not always the best, but that's all I know how to do."
Since '08, Hamels has been as reliable as any pitcher in baseball. He has thrown at least 200 innings in six of the past seven seasons. He can help the Rangers attempt to make a run this year, and he will be part of a potentially stacked rotation next season when Yu Darvish and Derek Holland should be back and healthy.
Hamels wanted to come to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where he has friends and family, and it's fitting. He had a no-trade clause, but he was willing to waive it to come to the Rangers.
"Having [Cliff Lee] on [the Phillies], he talked a lot about the Rangers and how exciting it was in his time," Hamels said. "Being able to be a part of Dallas, having family here, getting the understanding of what Dallas, Texas, really represents -- it has a lot of the core values that I really enjoy and really believe in."
Once Hollywood Hamels, he is ready to become Texas Tough.